Vessel found in search for missing yachtswoman Ona Unwin off Devon and Cornwall coast


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Rescue crews searching for a yacht and her skipper have found the wreckage of a vessel.

Devon and Cornwall Police were this afternoon with members of Ona Unwin's family after air and sea search teams made the discovery, believed to be her 31ft yacht Seagair, near Sennen Cove in Cornwall. A force spokesman said there was no evidence of a body onboard the stricken vessel.

Ms Unwin, also known by her middle name of Mary, was the sole person onboard when she left Mousehole in Cornwall on Saturday evening. She had been due to arrive at Bideford in Devon last night, having circumnavigated the bottom of the Cornish coastline before heading north, but relatives became anxious when she failed to show up.

A Falmouth Coastguard spokesman said: "At around 12.30pm today, rescue crews discovered the wreckage of a vessel around Sennen Cove.

"It will be brought ashore later to see whether it can be identified."

A police spokesman said: "The wreckage of a vessel has been found, and it is believed to be the Seagair. However, investigations are ongoing."

The 65-year-old was said to have dismissed safety warnings about the forthcoming weather when she bought the 31ft vessel from Falmouth Yacht Brokers on Thursday last week.

Proprietor Jerry Hobkirk today said he would not have let Ms Unwin sail had he known she would have ignored his pleas not to set off until the weather had subsided. He also said Ms Unwin was advised to embark on a sailing refresher course before taking to the water - something the missing woman also appears to have ignored.

Mr Hobkirk said: "The weather was treacherous this weekend, even for some of the more experienced sailors.

"I simply cannot understand what she was thinking when she left the harbour (in Mousehole), and against the advice of the sailing school.

"She seemed determined to fail."

Falmouth Coastguard said neither the skipper nor her yacht have been seen since the alarm was raised.

Three RNLI lifeboats from Penlee, Sennen Cove and St Ives have been requested to launch and are searching for the missing yacht.

Mr Hobkirk said the 130-mile journey from Mousehole to Bideford would have tested even experienced sailors, let alone in difficult conditions.

He added: "I was amazed when I found out that she had set sail. If I had known, we would have stopped her.

"There were strong winds and rough seas on a piece of coast that has very few escape routes. If you get into difficulties there aren't very many ports to play your 'get out of jail' card with."